GMG high school classes canceled for broken pipes

Staff and volunteers work to contain water damage in a classroom at GMG High School on Jan. 18 resulting from frozen and broken water pipes. The breaks in the pipes caused classes to be canceled that day. PHOTO COURTESY OF GMG COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT/FACEBOOK

GARWIN – The GMG Community School District did not escape last month’s problem of frozen water pipes caused by wind chills falling to around -25 degrees.

On Tuesday Jan. 16, the school district had not yet discovered any broken pipes. Officials took steps to cancel classes that day because of the extremely cold temperatures and the struggle to keep the buildings warm with older boilers.

Unfortunately, things change and two days later on Thursday, High School Principal Jaimie Gargas wrote on Facebook that school officials were dealing with broken pipes and water damage. As a result, classes were canceled again.

“When dealing with situations like this, it just doesn’t make sense to have kids under foot,” he wrote. “We’re a family, both faculty and district, and we’re pulling together and doing what needs [to be] done the way this amazing bunch of adults does.”

Gargas said the plan at the time was for students to return to the high school on Monday, Jan. 22. Preventing the water and damage from spreading was the focus in the meantime. He added district officials want to have a full understanding of how much of the building will have to go through remodeling or construction. After the T-R contacted Gargas, he said there were multiple breaks, which occurred during the last two days.

“As things thaw, breaks become apparent,” Gargas said.

The largest break is in the kitchen and the others are in the math and English classrooms.

“Older buildings aren’t cost-effective to modernize when they’re brick and cement construction, and older steam-fed systems have advantages and drawbacks to them,” Gargas said.

Fortunately, the district’s insurance and recovery company were on scene quickly after the breaks were discovered, he said.

“Our building leadership team is phenomenal at figuring things out during tough times, and I’ve already been in contact with the Department of Education,” Gargas said. “How we make things up will be a discussion once we’ve gotten everything else assessed.”

The district has had frozen, broken pipes before. Gargas said two years ago, there was a larger broken pipe incident, so officials were prepared to handle Thursday’s breaks and faculty are doing what needs to be done.

“I can’t say enough how resilient our faculty is, and how we pull together when times are tough,” he said.